Dear Parish Faithful,
Afterfeast of the Nativity - This is a somewhat complicated period in terms of how it is approached liturgically.
On the one hand, we have the longest fast-free period in the entire liturgical year, from December 25 - January 4 inclusive. This fast-free period is reflective of the joy that surrounds the Nativity of Christ. That means that the entire week ahead of us is fast-free up to and including Friday.
However, January 5 is "strict fast day" in preparation for Theophany on January 6 (a Sunday this year). So, we have the "twelve days of Christmas" from December 25 - January 5, though the last of these days is a fast day because of the subsequent Theophany.
However, because January 1 is eight days after Nativity, we celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ on that day. Jesus submits Himself to the Law and is circumcised in the flesh as a male child of Israel; as well as being given his divinely-directed Name of Jesus on the eighth day. Yet, since this feast takes us to the "next step" in the developing life of Christ, we no longer sing the festal Nativity hymns past December 31.
Therefore, though the Christmas season extends up to Theophany, it is no longer the focus of the Church's liturgy/hymnography once we come to the Circumcision. Hence, today is the last day that we sing the Troparion, "Thy Nativity of Christ ..." As I said, a bit complicated...
Here is a link to a good, short summary of the meaning of the Feast of the Circumcision...
On January 1, we also commemorate St. Basil the Great, truly one of the "greatest" of the Church Fathers. Here is a link to a rather lengthy summary of his extraordinary life - all packed into forty-nine years!
How will we, as a parish, celebrate these two feasts on January 1 (together with the civil New Year)? According to the following schedule:
This evening - Great Vespers at 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday - Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at 9:30 a.m.
I hope to see many of you at one or both of these services. If the civil New Year is a big celebration for you, then begin with God!